The federal cabinet increased the size of cash assistance to flood victims from Rs28 billion to Rs70bn on Tuesday and stressed the need for strict adherence to zoning regulations all over the country to avoid illegal construction on the river bed to avert Swat-like destruction caused by flash floods. Presiding over the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged the nation to exhibit a spirit of sacrifice and resilience like the one observed on Sept 6, 1965 (Defence Day) to cope with the current grave challenges in the wake of floods. “The federal cabinet today [Tuesday] decided to increase the cash assistance from Rs28bn to Rs70bn as a one-time payment at the rate of Rs25,000 per family,” the prime minister said in a Twitter post after the cabinet meeting. “This increase was made keeping in view the scale and extent of flood damage. The money is being distributed through BISP [Benazir Income Support Programme].” In another tweet, he said that as the country grappled with “historic floods” and other challenges, “we need to summon the spirit of 1965”. “National unity is our greatest strength. Anyone intending to hurt the bond between our armed forces and people is not a friend of Pakistan. Let us fortify this bond of one nation,” he said. Flooding, brought by record monsoon rainfall and glacier melt in the north, has impacted 33 million people and killed at least 1,325, including 466 children, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. According to Prime Minister House, Mr Sharif also directed the authorities concerned to ensure zoning regulations for utilising the river bed were effectively enforced to prevent flood-related destruction took place in Swat from happening again. The cabinet meeting also offered fateha for martyrs of the armed forces as well as the citizens who lost their lives to flash floods. The cabinet was informed during the meeting that floods had affected 6,615 union councils of 81 districts across the country, including 32 districts in Balochistan, 23 in Sindh, 17 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, six in Gilgit-Baltistan and three in Punjab. Most of the 1,325 nationwide deaths were recorded in Sindh, where 522 people have died so far, followed by 289 in KP, 260 in Balochistan, 189 in Punjab, 42 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and 22 in GB. Besides, flooding has left 12,703 people injured, including 8,321 in Sindh, 3,844 in Punjab, 348 in KP, 164 in Balochistan, 21 in AJK and five in GB. The country has received nearly 190 per cent more rain than the 30-year average in July-August, totalling 390.7mm (15.38 inches), with Sindh getting 466pc and Balo­ch­istan 437pc more rain than the average. The rains have also damaged 1.68m houses, 246 bridges, 5,735 kilometres of road and washed away 750,000 livestock heads. The cabinet meeting was informed that almost 80pc to 90pc of land would be made cultivable for the wheat crop, which otherwise could risk a severe food crisis. It was told that of the Rs28bn previously allocated for flood-hit people, Rs20bn had already been disbursed while the remainder would reach the entitled families within the next three days. Besides, the prime minister has also announced Rs15bn for Sindh, Rs10bn each for Balochistan and KP, and Rs3bn for GB for the affected citizens. The federal government has also provided Rs1m each for families who have lost their loved ones to floods. Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq told the meeting floods had damaged four railway lines and the traffic on the Quetta-Sibbi section was suspended due to a damaged railway bridge. Energy Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir said two of the three 810-megawatt power transmission lines of Balochistan had been restored and only submerged grid stations were closed at present. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari apprised the meeting of the flood situation in Sindh. The prime minister assured him that affected families would be provided with tents and mosquito nets.